Perry Nuclear Power Plant, North Perry, Ohio
The troubled history of nuclear power generating plants in the United States is perhaps most aptly illustrated by the Perry Nuclear Power Plant, situated just 40 miles northeast of Cleveland, Ohio, on the southern shore of Lake Erie.
The construction permit for this facility in the semi-rural community of North Perry, Ohio was first issued in May of 1977, but it wasn’t until over 19 years later, in November of 1986, that the plant actually began generating electricity for its owner, FirstEnergy. By that time, the originally planned two-core facility had been limited to a single-core plant, though much of the necessary infrastructure and a second massive cooling tower had already been built. Total costs exceeded $6 billion, making Perry one of the world’s most expensive power plants of its day.
The plant is also one of the nation’s largest boiling water reactors (or BWR), employing General Electric’s BWR-6 design within a Mark III containment vessel. The facility can generate up to 1,268 megawatts of power, sufficient to power about 1.4 million homes. It occupies 1,100 acres of land, with its own access roads, just north of North Ridge Road (State Route 20).
A quite recent reminder of Perry’s checkered history came on April 22, 2011, when the plant was evacuated due to an alarming spike in radiation readings within the facility during refueling. A special investigation by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will follow. Perry’s troubles began as early as March of 2010, when a small fire burned for several hours in its water pump lubrication system. In May of that year, plant engineers also had to manually ‘power down’ the reactor, when it became clear that the core’s automatic emergency shutdown was not operating properly.
The facility has also been plagued in recent years by a series of safety problems and violations that prompted the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to monitor safety procedures every three months throughout 2005. Perry also had to be shut down for a period due to problems with circulating pumps failing to provide adequate coolant water to temper the core reactor.
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